The Mandalorian – Chapter 10: The Passenger (S2, E2 review) / Star Trek: Discovery – “Forget Me Not” (S3, E4 review)

(image via The Mandalorian wiki (c) Disney)

THE MANDALORIAN

SPOILERS AHEAD … AND STAR WARS EASTER EGGS GALORE …

In a franchise with a history as illustrious and long-lasting as Star Wars, it’s all but inevitable, and thoroughly, wonderfully welcome, that its books, movies, and in this case, TV shows, will feature a treasure trove of Easter eggs.

It’s both a nod to and building upon the rich history of storytelling that has come before but also a thank you to fans like this reviewer who revel in seeing people, place and things come alive once again, or as in the case of “Chapter 10: The Passenger”, for the first time in a visual setting.

This is an episode which zips from the twin sun desiccated surrounds of Tatooine, itself an Easter egg of epic and enduring proportions, where Din (Pedro Pascal), heading back on a land speeder to his ship is waylaid and then amusingly bests some thugs and meets Dr Mandible, a character from the Dark Nest novel trilogy in the Mos Eisley Cantina (where he is playing Sabacc with the fabulously irreverent Peli Motto) to an icy moon where Din, escaping the unwelcome eyes of a New Republic patrol lands The Razor Crest, much like Han Solo (Harrison Ford) does when he accidentally lands the Millennium Falcon in the mouth of a Space Slug that looks exactly like a cave (The Empire Strikes Back).

If that’s not enough, and really that alone could be, the episode includes a Death Star-destroying run along a canyon, this time a very icy one, in which Din and the two New Republic pilots, who turn out to be fairly decent people in the end, do a re-enactment of sorts of Luke’s famous A New Hope scene where he blasts the Empire’s ultimate weapon to pieces.

Impressive though this is, Din’s clever ruse to hide in the depths of the ice moon, problematic on all kinds of level since he’s giving safe passage to a mother frog-like alien who’s racing to fertilise her eggs – eggs which, by the way, the Child finds hilariously and cheekily delicious, providing some nice moments of humour to go with an otherwise intense horror-filled tale of survival – ends up being a thousand times of scary when it turns out he has fallen into an Alien-esque cave of spider alien young.

Their eggs even look like ovomorphs, the horrific realisation of which is balanced with the fact the Child, who appears to have predilection for eggs of all shapes and sizes, is humourously seen chowing down into them just as the spiders hatch.

So on the one hand we have the kind of terror that causes you to hide under a blanket, only peeking out if you’re sure your eyes are adequately covered by your fingers and on the other, the Child happily munching on baby alien spiders as if they are an all-you-can-eat buffet.

And what pray tell are the spiders? They are Krykna, the “crawlers” which attacked the good people of Star Wars Rebels in the season 2 episode “The Mystery of Chopper Base” and which features, notes Nerdist, in some “Ralph McQuarrie Empire Strikes Back concept art for a giant white spider from the planet Dagobah.”

(image via The Mandalorian wiki (c) Disney)

Easter eggs aside, and lordy aren’t they fun to pick out as you’re watching an episode like this – to be fair, this reviewer owes a debt of gratitude to both Nerdist and Gamespot for adding to the ones he spotted – “Chapter 10: The Passenger” was proof positive that you can have some diversionary fun on your way to fleshing out a season-long mystery.

Granted, for those wanting a few more jigsaw puzzles pieces to add to the haul so far, this episode was likely found wanting, but for everyone who enjoys a fun standalone episode of sorts, “The Passenger” was a treat.

Not simply because the story was a ton of horror-filled fun.

We also got to see a little more of what makes the Child tick – sure he can psychokinetically move things, hinting at a profound connection to the Force (which is, of course, referenced in the episode in a call-and-response format) but he is also impishly, cheekily, naughtily a kid.

Watching Din try again and again with ever-decreasing patience, like any parent, to get his charge to do the right thing – eating a passenger’s eggs is not the done thing but trying get the Child on board with that idea – is hilarious.

His mounting frustration at the Child’s misbehaviour, right when it’s not needed and there are a ton of other crises on the plate, one of which the kid triggered thank you very much, is one of the great delights of an episode which seamlessly mixes humour and drama, something that Star Wars has managed with aplomb since the scroll first appeared on screen in 1977, ushering in the manifest joy of A New Hope.

At its heart, “Chapter 10: The Passenger” was a character-enhancing exercise, giving us small slivers of insight into Din Djarin and his ward and the rich relationship they are developing as father and child.

It may not have sent the story arc for season 2 hurtling into the middle distance but it did allow us to savour what we love about the franchise as well as providing a nice little side adventure which is, mysteries aside, half the fun of The Mandalorian.

(image via The Mandalorian wiki (c) Disney)

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY

(image via SpoilerTV (c) CBS All-Access)

SPOILERS AHEAD … AND THERAPY WITH A MILKY DIFFERENCE …

“Forget Me Not”, episode four in what is proving to be a most excellent third futuristic season for Star Trek: Discovery was a tale of two quite distinct storylines.

Distinct in that Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio) journeyed down to the planet Trill, which came to prominence in Deep Space Nine, to find a way for the Discovery’s newest crew member to access her buried memories, one of which is hopefully where the hell the Federation is hiding itself in 3189, while the rest of the crew, who aren’t coping as well they say they are, sat down to a healing dinner with Captain Saru (Doug Jones).

The former storyline went pretty as you might expect with Adira finding not only her memories but also healing from past trauma, one of which involved the loss of her home, a generation ship in search of the Federation (there’s no warp so it’s steady as you go for pretty much everything) and the love of her short but eventful life.

As therapy goes, it was intense.

Forget sitting on couches as Enya plays in the background – on the Trill homeworld, which was none too pleased to see a symbiont in a human body, viewing that unexpected development as some kind of heresy, you plunged right into the sacred pools wherein the symbionts live when they are not in hosts and essentially live ever last painful detail and piece of trauma attached to a memory.

Gentle therapy it is not, tinged as it is with all kinds of tension, not all of it associated with memory recovery – the Trill, decimated by the Burn, are short quite a few hosts and are facing societal collapse but dammit if that means they’ll adapt their beliefs to changed circumstances, creating some big problems for Burnham and Adira – but it works, Adira finds out who she is and who her previous hosts were and are, and the Trill started making nice with what’s left of the Federation once again.

It was, in so many ways a beautiful, emotional-arresting piece of storytelling as Adira navigates a great deal of pain and loss and reunites, in the most fantastical but emotionally resonant way with her onetime love Gray Tal (Ian Alexander), Star Trek’s first transgender character.

What makes it so effective is that while the trip to Trill is undertaken as a way to get Senna Tal’s (Kenneth Walsh) message about where the Federation is hiding – mission accomplished there so narrative momentum is maintained – it ultimately becomes far more about identity and love and humanity, the kind that thankfully pays no heed to bigotry, religious blinkeredness or petty prejudice.

If this is the future of the future, then more power to it.

(image via SpoilerTV (c) CBS All-Access)

The second or B-stotyline was not quite so successful, though not for want of trying.

Rather than ignoring the effect a trip into the future would have on the crew, who are effectively cut off from anyone and anything they have known and who have lost connection to many of the things that define us including friends and family and the observance of important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries, Discovery tackles it head-on, admitting that heroics aside, the decision to go one thousand into the future is seriously screwing with everyone bigtime.

It would be all too easy to concentrate solely on the mission at hand, and ignore the psychology of this major narrative shift, but if Discovery had done, prioritising action over humanity, it would not only have denied one of the key parts of its Star Trek DNA, but missed the opportunity to explore what happens to people cut off from their normal space and time.

So we are given insight into the way in which the future jump has affected crew cohesion – Lt. Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts) and Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) are not getting along well at all, each claiming they are the reason Discovery got to 3189 in one piece while Stamets is being an absolutely cruel jerk to dear sweet Tilly (Amy Wiseman) – and how no one, all too aware of what’s at stake on their highly unorthodox mission, is willing to admit they aren’t coping.

God bless Captain Saru for trying to remedy all the unspoken rancour by having everyone from the bridge crew over for a sumptuous meal, part of what makes him such a good choice for captain and why we are glad that Burnham, who is called a “responsibility hoarder” by Dr Culber (Wilson Cruz), relinquished the role to him.

But while you have to hand Saru full marks for trying to get everyone to deal with their PTSD by embracing what Culber calls “Post-Traumatic Growth” – he says to Burnham that dying (him), time travel (everyone) and spending a year alone in the future (Burnham) comes with trauma yes, but, handled well, the chance to begin anew – dinner does not go according to plan and everyone ends up even further apart than before (Georgiou, played by Michelle Yeoh, laps it all with her characteristic dark enjoyment of others’ discomfort).

While this aspect of the episode means well and comes with laudably lofty intent, it ultimately feels too slight and superficial to say much of anything about trauma.

What we end up with instead is a whole lot of handwringing, yelling, dissension and then magical rapprochement, all aided by a Buster Keaton film, and while it’s does a bad B-strand, it’s that good either and comes close to taking away from all the meaning and worthwhile emotionally intensity of events down on Trill.

As episodes go, “Forgot Me Not” is hardly a step backwards, adding immeasurably to the rich humanity which permeates Discovery, but it really doesn’t spark brightly overall, making it the weakest episode so far in a third season which is nevertheless shaping up to be the show’s best so far.

(image via SpoilerTV (c) CBS All-Access)

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